William (Bill) J. Corbett of Floral Park passed on Jan. 30, 2023 at the age of 85. He was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to John Corbett and Mildred (Bauer) Corbett and raised in Astoria until age 8, when he moved to the Incorporated Village of Floral Park in Nassau County, where he made a lasting impact. He is predeceased by younger sisters (twins) Elaine Peterson and Elizabeth Anderson.
Bill was married to his beloved wife Ann for 56 years. He lived in Floral Park for over 77 years and traveled to more than 70 countries. Their three adult children, Bill Jr., Spencer and Sally, have successful careers in public relations, the United States Postal Service and nonprofits, respectively. Bill loved fine food, music, comedy, travel and spending time with his children and grandchildren, Lindsay, Brian, Billy III and Vita.
Bill’s patriotic spirit, civic pride, and charitable service threaded through his entire being. Never forgetting his humble roots, he had an unceasing drive to help others and often did so behind the scenes without desire of recognition. He was always willing to provide advice, support and brainstorm solutions to problems. He was very proud of the accomplishments of his wife, Ann, children and grandchildren.
He graduated from Sewanhaka High School, and was Captain of the Floral Park Civil Defense Junior Rescue, member of Boy Scout Troop 4 and head of Nassau DeMolay Chapter. DeMolay, a youth leadership organization, played an important role in his life; he was recognized with the State Organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.
Bill graduated from Hobart College in 1959, where he was a member of the ROTC. He reported for active duty in August 1959 to the 63rd Troop Carrier Wing of the U.S. Air Force in Greenville, SC. Over the next three years, he went on missions to 19 countries and served as Chief Information Officer on Operation Deepfreeze in Antarctica in 1960 and 1961.
Captain Corbett remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for seven years, and was briefly called to duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He received the Air Force Commendation Medal, Cold War Service Certificate, National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expedition Medal, Outstanding Unit Award and New York State Conspicuous Service Medal.
Bill attended Albany Law School from 1962 to 1963 and worked part-time in the New York State Senate. In 1963, he transferred to and later graduated from Fordham Law School. He was admitted to the New York State Bar.
Bill served as a criminal defense trial attorney for the Nassau County Legal Aid Society and later as a Nassau County Assistant District Attorney working in the district court and law departments.
He later joined Avon Products, Inc., the world’s largest cosmetic and direct selling company, eventually becoming Director of Public Relations, where he supervised programs in 36 countries. He left Avon to become Vice President-Communications of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, where he worked coordinating state and national programs. He served for 15 years on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of the Presidency.
Bill was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a member of the Communications Advisory Committee of the United States Information Agency. In that capacity, he visited numerous countries behind the then “Iron Curtain.” At one point he and Ann were detained by Russian officials. He served as an unsalaried USIA Advisor for 13 years. He was also asked to performed other assignments for his nation. Several Presidents invited him to participate in White House Conferences. He was a member of the U.S. Small Business Administration New York Advisory Council.
He served as President of The Public Relations Society of New York and President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) with members in 100 countries and as the IPRA NGO Delegate to the United Nations.
Bill and Ann were guests of President Reagan at a White House State Dinner. During his career he met and worked with U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents as well thousands of elected officials and celebrities from TV, movies and sports. He was instrumental in securing equal prize money for professional women’s tennis players and getting the women’s marathon accepted as an Olympic sport.
Bill founded Corbett Public Relations (CorbettPR.com) which is now run by his son, Bill Corbett Jr. He has been a sole practitioner attorney in Floral Park for over 30 years providing local clients with elder law, real estate, and wills and estates and other services.
At the age of 70, he and Ann became interfaith ministers. Bill performed weddings for many including celebrities at venues such as the Empire State Building, Windows on the World at the World Trade Center before 9/11 and at Gold Coast mansions. He loved being with people on their most joyous day.
A community leader in Floral Park, Bill served as Village Prosecuting Attorney and Associate Village Justice for over 20 years. He left the courts when his wife was elected the first woman mayor in the 125-year history of the Village.
He is Past Commander and Judge Advocate of the Floral Park American Legion, member of 40 & 8, the Legion of Honor Society; Floral Park Free & Accepted Masons Lodge and has served as co-president of Friends of the Floral Park Library, past president of the West End and South Side Civic Associations, a member of the Floral Park Emergency Management Committee and board member of the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce, Floral Park Lions Club and Floral Park Historical Society.
Bill always worked to make life better for local residents. He was a leader of Water Bill Watchdogs, a group that succeeded in having Jamaica Water Supply Company replaced by the Water Authority of Western Nassau, which resulted in a 50 percent decrease in water bills for the community. He was vocal for decades about concerns relating to the expansion of the Long Island Rail Road Third Track project.
Bill was a former Vice President of the Nassau County Magistrates Association, member of Former Assistant District Attorneys of Nassau County, Nassau County Bar Association and New York State Bar Association. He was Chairman of the Committee on Ordinances and Administrative Regulations of the Local Government Section of the American Bar Association.
William J. Corbett is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Ann V. Corbett; son Willian J. Corbett, Jr. and daughter-law Laura Corbett and grandchildren Vita Corbett and William J. Corbett III of East Rockaway; son Spencer T. Corbett and daughter-in-law Jennifer Corbett and grandchildren Lindsay Corbett and Brian Corbett of Stony Point; and daughter Sally Ann Corbett-Turco and son-in-law Anthony Turco of Katonah and Franklin Square.
Visitation was held at Dalton Funeral Home in Floral Park and the funeral service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bellerose.
In lieu of flowers Bill asked that donations be made to the New York DeMolay.
New York DeMolay
2150 Bleecker Street
Utica, NY 13501
Donations can also be sent via their website.
—Submitted by the family of William J. Corbett